The little known gem of South Carolina, Greenville, is beginning to gain steam and show up more and more on top travel lists for the Southeast. Often overlooked as many travelers head to the coast to visit Charleston, or Myrtle Beach, Greenville has a totally different feel from it’s low country coastal counterparts. Nestled up against the foothills of the blue ridge mountains, Greenville has an up and coming culture of food, art, entertainment and exploration. Not to mention it is currently the global headquarters for Flashpacker Co! So without further ado, let’s jump into the perfect plan for visiting this hidden gem in 3 days!
Planning Your Pack
Before you head straight out let’s talk briefly about what you’ll need to bring. This can vary significantly depending on the season and your planned activities.
Weather Greenville, SC
The weather in Greenville can vary greatly depending on the time of year that you visit.
Spring and fall are the most mild in terms of temperatures with daytime temperatures in the 70s and low 80s and night time temperatures falling in the 50s and 60s. Spring sees a significant amount more rainfall than the fall though, making fall the ideal time to visit.
Winters are not generally extreme with temperatures regularly in the 50s during the day, but night time temperatures can fall well below freezing and Greenville will usually see at least one bout of snowfall a year.
In the summer, temperatures can be sweltering reaching the high 90s and low 100s with high humidity levels.
What to Bring
If you’re heading to Greenville in spring or fall shorts and t-shirts will still be the majority of your wardrobe. The vibe of the town is very casual and you’ll find tons of locals out and about in parks and on bikes running around in athletic wear. A couple “nice” outfits for restaurants and bars is advised as there are plenty of exceptional places to enjoy a cocktail and a meal.
If you’re planning your trip for the summer we strongly recommend finding water and bringing a bathing suit. There are several downtown hotels with swimming pools to help you cool off and there is no shortage of lakes, streams and rivers just a short drive outside of town that can be accessed on a hiking trip or by boat.
If your trip brings you to Greenville in the winter bring layers. Southerners do not generally like the cold and every business you enter will have the heat cranked up, while outside temperatures will be quite chilly. Being able to go from pants and a t-shirt inside to a heavier jacket or coat outside will be key.
Getting to Greenville
Getting to Greenville by car is made relatively easy by several interstate highways running right through or around the city. If traveling from the north or south you can find Greenville right between Charlotte, NC and Atlanta, GA on the I-85 corridor. Greenville is roughly 2hrs (a little less when there is no traffic) south of Charlotte and about 3 hrs north of Atlanta. In both cases, you’ll take I-85 until you run until I-385 which connects less than 10 miles outside of the city and feel take you right into the heart of downtown Greenville.
If you’re coming in from the east or west from cities like Asheville, NC or Columbia, SC you’ll probably find yourself on I-26 which crosses just above Greenville and allows for easy access via I-85 (from the west) and directly onto I-385 (from the east).
If the drive to Greenville isn’t in the cards, no worries. Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) flys a number of airlines although you’ll likely need to make a connection through Charlotte, Atlanta or DC as there are fewer direct flights in and out of the city. GSP is conveniently located just 15 minutes from downtown Greenville and it is very easy to find a reasonable Uber ride to and from.
Greenville also boasts its own downtown Greenville, SC Airport (GMU), but flights in and out are even more scarce than GSP. It’s worth checking though as empty seats can make the flights even cheaper and will put you right in the heart of Greenville when you land.
Where to Stay in Greenville, SC
As a southern city, public transport infrastructure in Greenville isn’t the best. It can really increase your enjoyment of your stay if you are able to stay downtown where most activities are within walking distance. There are plenty of hotels downtown right on Main Street, but staying a few blocks off of Main St should be no problem as well.
Airbnbs are also an option if you will have access to a car. There are lots of options sprinkled all throughout the city, but proximity to downtown will still be preferable.
Things to Do in Greenville, SC
With all of that out of the way, let’s jump into all the awesome things you’ll do on your visit!
Day 1 Explore Downtown Greenville, SC
Day 1 is all about getting to know downtown Greenville. The downtown mostly consists of the areas on or just around Main Street, but expect to do a good amount of walking up and down the lengthy street and out just a few blocks and back.
Main Street is lined with tons of local shops, restaurants, breweries and bars. Greenville is known for its amazing food scene, so take your time and stop into as many local spots as you can.
Here’s a quick list of our favorites:
Maple Street Biscuit Company - Fuel up for the day with biscuits, gravy, eggs and the works. Maple Street is a must try.
Eggs Up Grill - If you prefer the traditional diner feel, Eggs Up Grill has you covered with tons of options, quick service and reasonable prices.
The Chocolate Moose Bakery & Cafe - Located inside the downtown bookstore, this cafe has AMAZING salted chocolate chip cookies and great coffee to go with the bookstore browsing fun.
Coffee Underground - A quaint but vibrant little shop offering a huge selection of coffee, tea and pastries. If you enjoy the vibe at breakfast, check and see if there will be live music or comedy later in the evening.
Fireforge Crafted Beer - Big indoor/outdoor brewery space with great beer! Fireforge often has live music so be sure to check their website or call ahead.
Yee-Haw Brewing Company - Another large indoor/outdoor brewery/tasting room experience. Yee-Haw has a bit more of a sports bar feel but has plenty of yard games and a great food menu.
Pour Taproom - For the self service experience check out Pour Taproom. A quick check in at the front desk will get you a RFID enabled wristband that gives you access to over 50 taps to pour at your own pace. Pour also has an accompanying food truck nearby that is usually serving up tacos, chips and other amazing bar food.
As you work your way down Main Street taking in all of the amazing food & drink, be sure to drop into Falls Park. The park winds back and forth through downtown along Main Street and follows the path of the Reedy River running straight through downtown Greenville. Falls Park features a beautiful suspension bridge with a great view out over the Reedy just below Spill the Beans, an outdoor amphitheater just below the Peace Center, and several fun water features up at the top of Main Street.
Speaking of Spill the Beans, stop in here for a bit of ice cream or a milkshake to continue your journey.
Out of Spill the Beans, follow Main Street south until the fork between Main and Augusta Street. Take Augusta south until you run into Gather GVL. A vibrant outdoor food court, Gather is an amazing spot to grab drink and food truck style food, do some people watching and soak up the local culture.
If you’re lucky (or a great planner) you should be able to exit Gather, round the corner and arrive at Fluor Field. Home of the Greenville Drive (a Boston Red Sox minor league affiliate) Fluor field hosts all kinds of sports events including professional and collegiate baseball. Catch a hot dog, beer and hopefully a foul ball at the game before heading out for dinner.
For dinner there is no shortage of amazing options. Here is our super short list, but you really can’t go wrong:
Otto Izakaya - Just around the corner from Fluor Field, Otto is a sushi bar and hibachi restaurant with huge portions and half price sushi rolls if you can tie yourself over until the late night menu.
Smoke on the Water - Also right around the corner from Fluor Field, this restaurant is authentic southern cuisine for very reasonable prices.
Husk - For a bit more upscale experience, Husk offers artisan cocktail, local ingredients and dishes you likely won’t find anywhere else. Check their menu before heading over as it is always changing with the food for the day.
Jianna - This italian seafood focused restaurant is right in the heart of downtown and boasts fun outdoor seating out on a patio looking over Main St. Jianna can be expensive, but the food is a delight.
If a day of food and drink doesn’t quite fit your style, the day could be spent seeing exhibits at the Upcountry History Museum or the Greenville County Museum of Art or planning to see a show at the Peace Center in downtown Greenville.
Day 2 Do As The Locals Do
Greenville is a huge biking town. Thankfully, biking gives you access to a wider area around the city without dealing with the hassle of coordinating a car or an Uber.
There are plenty of places to rent a bike for the day and trek your way around the area. We highly suggest jumping out on the Swamp Rabbit Trail and heading north. The Swamp Rabbit trail is a paved biking and jogging trail stretching 22 miles from above Traveler’s Rest to below Greenville and there are tons of great spots to check out along the way.
Your first stop north out of Greenville will be at the Commons. This indoor shopping and food court is a perfect place to fuel up with coffee and light pastry breakfast. If you’re not quite ready to eat you can continue on the trail until you reach the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery, another great spot for a coffee and biscuit. Continue north passing parks, mills and seeing the nature surrounding the city.
After about 6 miles (about 30 mins ride) you’ll come across the Furman University Campus. Consistently ranked one of the most beautiful campuses in the US, Furman’s open to the public campus is a great place to continue your ride, checking out the lakeside view, the iconic Bell Tower and the tree lined mall down the center of campus.
After checking out Furman’s campus, continue north on the trail for another 3 miles to find yourself in Traveler’s Rest. Grab a well deserved brunch at Tandem Creperie where they have amazing and decadent crepes of all varieties. If you’re arriving a bit later in the day, Sidewall Pizza and Farmhouse Tacos are great lunch/ mid afternoon options. If you need to grab any gear for tomorrow’s hike or drive, Sunrift Adventures can be a great place to stop in and grab any of your outdoor needs.
After you're back up and have grabbed any necessary gear it’s time to hop back on the trail and head south. You can take the straight shot back into downtown Greenville from here or stop into El Thrifty (right across from the Commons we visited earlier) for a happy hour drink with some indoor and outdoor games and food. Once back in Greenville it’s time to get off the bikes and give our legs a bit of rest.
With the great combination of amazing food and tons of live music in Greenville we suggest finding a place to soak up some more food and culture for the evening. There are no shortage of great options including Jack N Diane’s Dueling Pianos, Blues Boulevard Jazz or Smiley's Acoustic Cafe. If you can coordinate the timing and prefer outdoor music, Noma Square plaza generally has live music and food trucks in a festival style feel on Thursday and Friday evenings during the summer and fall.
If you’re not a big live music fan, this could be a great evening to get out and try out Top Golf. A fun golfing experience, with music, food and drinks that doesn’t require any walking or finding your ball.
Day 3 Explore the Areas Around Greenville
Greenville is a vibrant and fun city, but is also surrounded by some great sites. On Day 3 we suggest planning a day of outdoor recreation at one of the many state parks, rivers or lakes surrounding Greenville.
Here are our top suggestions:
The Gorge Zipline Canopy Tour - Enjoy hours of beautiful wooded views out over the rim of the Green River Gorge. If you’ve never zip lined before, it's a fun way to see some incredible views! Pricing varies by season but is usually around $100/person. Book ahead of time. About 45 mins from downtown Greenville.
Hike Through a State Park - Caesar’s Head State Park, Jones Gap State Park and Paris Mountain State Park are some of our favorites for doable hikes and amazing views. All of these are between 30 mins and an hour outside of the city and are very easy to locate with GPS. Bring a daypack with snacks and lunch and enjoy a picnic with an amazing view. For an especially breathtaking view, try and coordinate your visit in the fall when the leaves are changing colors (usually in late October or early November).
Visit Sky Top Orchard - Another easy 45 min drive option, Sky Top is a sprawling 70+ acre pick your own apple orchard. Views out into the mountain valleys are beautiful and walking the lines and lines of apple trees grabbing your own apples makes them taste even better! Tractor rides (for the little ones) are available and a huge open air market with pre picked apples, pies, cakes, ciders and juices complete the Sky Top experience. The orchard is free to enter and roam, pick your own apples by the pound are super cheap, but be sure to bring cash. You MUST grab a handful of donuts from the market on your way out and the market is cash only. Again, the best time to visit is in the fall.
Dates or Festivals in Greenville, SC to Plan Around
Besides the standard itinerary there are several festivals in Greenville worth considering planning your trip around.
Fall For Greenville- This is Greenville’s premier celebration of the city, it’s food, music, nightlife and local vendors. During the weekend-long festival Main Street is completely blocked off to traffic, and restaurants bring all of their fare out to the streets. Beer tents and live music stages go up on every other corner and festival goers can roam miles of Main Street soaking up the amazing food, drink and music of the city.
Artisphere - A celebration of the amazing examples of art in the area, Artisphere is a similar weekend-long festival. Streets are again blocked off, but rather than tons of music stages and food tents, artists flock to the street to set up booths and exhibits of their work. Woodworking, metal manipulation, painting, sculpting and more are all on full display with live exhibitions and art available for sale.
Restaurant Week - We’ve raved about the food and fare in Greenville and restaurant week is the perfect time to visit if you really want to dive into the food scene. During restaurant week almost all downtown establishments offer exclusive menus, sample pricing and ban together to create unique food experiences. This is the best way to taste as many of the different chef creations the city has to offer.
Visiting Greenville, SC
Greenville is a fun and vibrant city surrounded by amazing landscapes and full of its own culture. There are so many different ways to visit the city and take in all it has to offer. This 3 day itinerary is a great place to start, but don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path and pave your own way through the city. If you visit and have your own recommendations, we’d love to hear about them! Just tag us in your adventures on Instagram @flashpackerco.